The slip is showing from schools to universities, arguably a testament to the potential centres of excellence that are based on a fragile foundation. Over the past few months ~ which in itself is a long enough period ~ the search of learning has been hampered in both Presidency and Jadavpur Universities.
If it was the imbroglio over admission tests in the latter, the former has been convulsed by a students’ movement over accommodation in Hindu hostel, now under renovation. Confusion gets worse confounded with the Presidency authorities’ decision to instal CCTV cameras, in itself an anathema to the raison d’etre of a centre of learning.
The academic greats of yesteryear would have balked at the idea. Vice-Chancellor Anuradha Lohia’s assurance that these shall not be fixed in what she calls “student zones” has cut no ice not the least because the term has been left delightfully vague. The decision carries within it the germs of a certain inbuilt insecurity.
While the academic calendar has been the major casualty of the distressing state of affairs, almost chaotic, the Chief Minister has now bared her angst against several schools where classes are “irregular” and “academic activities generally poor”.
Mamata Banerjee’s candour at the recent cabinet meeting underscore the enormity of the crisis that plagues school education. Far from specifying the number of such schools, she has not mentioned whether these are government or government-aided, or private institutions.
The short shrift thus accorded to the Right to Education Act ~ a fundamental entitlement ~ was palpable when the Chief Minister told the meeting that she had received complaints against many schools where classes were irregular and where teachers were rather “dutifully” shirking their primary responsibility.
In the net, from schools to universities the teachers have let the students down. It will not be enough only to instruct the Chief Secretary to “look into the issue, identify the problems, and come up with the solution”.
The seriousness of the issue warrants a general directive to all schools, a meeting with a cross-section of the school heads and also, of course, the intervention of the school education department. No less a matter of concern is Miss Banerjee’s distinct allusion to a possible rift between senior officials of the education department and the education minister, Partha Chatterjee.
The latter has on occasion been known to have made the waters murkier, and notably in Jadavpur University. It is imperative that the equation between the minister and his department must of necessity be cordial.
The students do deserve a better deal both from the government and the respective institutions. Sad to reflect, both entities now appear to be thoroughly indecisive. The chaos is overwhelming, provoking the Chief Minister’s wholly justified ire.